Vienna shooting: what happened in Austria’s capital city as deadly ‘terror’ attack at synagogue leaves 4 people dead

Austria and its capital city was about to head into lockdown when the shootings took place

(Photo: JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo: JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)

A terrorist attack left four people dead and several injured in the Austrian capital of Vienna on Monday 2 November.

A major security operation involving hundreds of police was underway as authorities searched for a suspect that was “still on the run”, but authorities now believe a gunman shot dead by police may have acted alone.

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The attacks come less than a week after three people were killed and several others injured in a knife attack near a church in Nice, France in the early hours of 29 October.

A major security operation is underway in the city (Photo: ALEX HALADA/AFP via Getty Images)

Here is everything you need to know.

What happened in Vienna?

Originally, it was believed that gunmen opened fire at six different locations in the city centre on Monday (2 November) evening, and some perpetrators were thought to still be "on the loose", according to Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Mr Kurz, speaking shortly after the incident, called the attack "despicable".

Austria is now under lockdown, with bars and other venues closed to combat the spread of coronavirus (Photo: JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)

The attack began at around 8pm while people were enjoying a last evening out in the city before a coronavirus lockdown: as of midnight, all bars and restaurants are closed in Austria for the next month.

Authorities now believe a gunman shot dead by police may have acted alone.

Oskar Deutsch, the head of the Jewish community in Vienna, said the shooting took place in the street outside the city's main synagogue but that it was not clear whether it had been targeted.

The synagogue was already closed at the time of the shooting, he tweeted.

Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister witnessed the attack, and told The Associated Press that he saw one person fire shots at people sitting outside bars.

“They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building,” Hofmeister said. “A lot of people probably wanted to use that evening to be able to go out.”

Who are the victims?

22 people were injured in the attack in the centre of the capital, including a security guard at the synagogue and a 28-year-old police officer in critical condition who was shot while responding to the attack.

Vienna mayor Michael Ludwig said all were admitted to hospital, seven with serious injuries. A police officer was among the injured, Austrian police confirmed on Twitter.

“There are several injured persons,” police tweeted. “We are on site with all available forces. Please avoid all public squares in the city.”

Two of those who died in the shooting were women and two were men. One of the women was reportedly a waitress. The second woman died of her wounds in hospital overnight, reports said.

Who was responsible?

Police said the attack was considered to have an Islamist motive, with the suspect - who was shot dead by police - armed with an assault rifle, carrying other handguns, and wearing a fake explosive belt.

Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer described the assailant killed by police as an "Islamist terrorist".

He later told the APA news agency that the 20-year-old gunman had been released early from jail last December, eight months after he was convicted of trying to travel to Syria to join the militant Islamic State group.

People in Vienna were urged to stay at home while authorities determine if further attackers are still at large.

Mr Kurz praised police for killing the attacker and vowed: "We will never allow ourselves to be intimidated by terrorism and will fight these attacks with all means."

Authorities in Vienna urged people to avoid all open spaces and public transportation. Police urged social media users not to post videos of the police operation so as not to endanger officers.

Austrian police have carried out a series of raids and made 14 arrests in the wake of the attacks.

What has been the UK’s response?

Both the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted to express solidarity with Austria after the deadly attack.

Mr Johnson said: "I am deeply shocked by the terrible attacks in Vienna tonight. The UK's thoughts are with the people of Austria - we stand united with you against terror."

Ms Patel said the UK stood "ready to support" Austria following the shootings.

The Home Secretary tweeted: "Deeply shocked and saddened by the incident that has taken place in Vienna this evening. My thoughts are with everyone who has been affected and we stand ready to support in any way we can."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also tweeted his support in the wake of the attacks, saying” “All our thoughts are with those affected by the terrorist attack in Austria.”

"Vienna is a home for diplomacy, culture and openness. Its attackers will be remembered only for their hatred and their failure to divide people," he added.